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Latex Foam Guide – A Guide to Comparing
and Buying Latex Bedding Products – Latex Mattress Sets,
Latex Mattress Pad Toppers and Pillows

Our Latex Foam Guide has been widely acclaimed as the authoritative guide on buying latex bedding and natural latex products. It comes both as a website page and as an easily downloadable ebook. You can download here: Latex Foam Guide ebook.

This webpage version has links to latex product pages within our site www.AbsoluteComfortOnSale.com

Some of the major topics covered include:

The History and Development of Latex Foam
Modern Latex Processing and Production Guide
The Dunlop Manufacturing Process
The Talalay Manufacturing Process
A Guide to Natural Latex Vs Synthetic Latex
Latex: Allergies and Hypo-Allergenic Issues
The Differences Between Latex Foam and Memory Foam
Latex Pillow Guide
Latex Mattress Pad Topper Guide
Latex Mattress Guide

latex rollThe History and Development of Latex Foam

Natural Rubber made its official western debut in France around the year 1736, though the miraculously waterproof character of rubber apparently also brought one man to court in Portugal on the charge of witchcraft.

Nowadays few would probably be aware that Hevea brasiliensis, the rubber tree commonly found in Southeast Asian countries as well as some parts of Africa and India, originated in Brazil – as its Latin name suggests. Indeed, Brazil was the original source of commercial latex rubber until the early 1900s. This market having been developed by the British, representatives of the British Government quietly took thousands of seeds to London 1870s, which were later exported to Asia where they rooted well and grew vigorously.

Since then, techniques for rapid tree cloning, harvesting, plantation management, and processing have been developed. Although it may not seem significant at first, the production of quality trees and the skill with which they are tapped are extremely important. Poorly produced or tapped trees may not grow properly, and will actually stop producing prematurely during their production cycle.

How is Latex Used?

Latex has gained wide popularity throughout society due to its unique elastic properties, as well as its water repellency and ability to recover completely when subjected to compression or elongation. Oh, and those handy-dandy erasers! Latex rubber and its synthetic family have revolutionized many industries, from mattresses, clothing, and bicycle and automobile parts to rubber bands, canning jars, and adhesives.

latex productsOf course, some of the initial limitations of the product were overcome in 1839 when Charles Goodyear re-invented the vulcanization process – giving rubber the ability to maintain its unique characteristics under high and varying temperatures. This, in turn, made it possible for both the bicycle and automobile industries to rise in global popularity, in turn fueling the demand for high quality rubber products.

The demand for rubber of ever-increasing performance also led scientists to isolate the primary chemistry of rubber and to reproduce it synthetically. In this one stroke, industrialists gained the ability to formulate and craft specific types of rubber to meet the requirements of intended products and the conditions in which they would be used.

Modern Latex Processing and Production Guide

latex scienceThe processing and production of rubber has progressed through numerous stages since the 1800s, and matured from batch to continuous processing styles. Each step has been intended to produce a better and more consistent product, with lower materials and labor costs involved. There have also been divergent methodologies developed in different sectors of the industry, aimed at accomplishing the same end in different ways.

The two most common commercial processes are the dunlop process and the talalay process. They are used for processing natural latex or a blend, which includes natural latex. Since the manufacturing of latex is over a decade old, many additional processes have been developed. There are numerous variations of each process, as well as alternative processes, such as the Dow Process, for completely synthetic rubbers, which will not be discussed here.

The Dunlop Process

After WWII, active interest returned to perfecting continuous processing of latex, improving the qualities of the finished product, and reducing the expense. The Dunlop Process proved to be a promising technological innovation which allowed the production of much more consistently high quality rubber than was possible before. In this process, the liquid latex is first foamed, and then gelled; and the latex batter is poured into the shape of the final product(s) while still in a semi-liquid state. The gelling latex is then allowed to set before being vulcanized into its final form. After vulcanization, the final steps, including washing and drying, take place. This washing phase may help to reduce residues of the various chemicals used in this process at different stages, for example chemicals used to maintain liquidity, to foam, to gel, etc.

latex processThe Talalay Process

The Talalay process was developed as an alternative to the Dunlop Process, in an effort to use less chemicals in the processing. It is often portrayed as an all natural process or a process for manufacturing all natural latex, but this is not so. Both the Dunlop and the Talalay processes are used in manufacturing all natural latex, as well as blended natural and synthetic latex.

In this novel technology, the latex batter is also whipped, but the primary aeration or foaming of the batter was achieved by chemical reaction or by reducing the ambient pressure – thus encouraging natural liquids within the batter to evaporate, and gasses to expand naturally within the batter, with minimal chemical intervention. Naturally, the aerated latex has to gel in the mold before vulcanization and final washing.

Modern Talalay processing actually incorporates a quick-freeze of the aerated foam inside the mould to maintain the homogeneous cell structure and density within the foam, and disallow stratification and settling. Although proponents of Talalay processing claim that this type of foam is more homogeneous, potentially less dense, and has superior qualities, critics argue that the freezing of the latex batter weakens the latex matrix, and reduces the durability of the final
product.

A Guide to Natural Latex vs Synthetic Latex:

latex treeThere are many interesting and valid reasons why synthetic latex has been developed for the bedding industry. Some of the more significant considerations include:

Particularly with the ever-growing domestic sales of latex bedding in the last century, it made no sense whatsoever to manufacture everything overseas. So, while overseas production boomed, domestic production also gained momentum, offering many new bedding options. Ironically, where 100% natural latex products had potential allergy issues, synthetic latex products suddenly showed their own side-effects – chemical off-gassing during use and toxic by-products when burned. Nevertheless, blended latex products were also developed in order to harness the best qualities of both the natural and synthetic varieties and eliminate unwanted characteristics.

Buyers must now be vigilant: marketing terms such "Latex Bed" or "Talalay Latex" do not necessarily mean that the latex is 100% natural – and, in many cases, such terminology hides the fact that the foam is actually an 80-20 or 85-15 blend of synthetic vs natural latex.

See our many fine Natural Latex Bedding products.

Latex: Allergies and Hypo-Allergenic Issues

Synthetic rubbers have gained in popularity and wide application particularly with the much-debated topic of latex allergies – which can lead to anaphylactic shock and even death in severe cases.  There are varying theories about latex allergy, with some claiming that it is the proteins of natural latex, or the chemical residues from processing, that are the real cause of the sensitivity.

Latex, the milky liquid harvested from trees and plants, is actually not exclusive to the well-known Havea brasiliensis rubber tree. Indeed, there are many plants that produce latex to protect and repair themselves when injured, and not all promote an allergic response. In the meantime, or until hypoallergenic Guyale Latex is commercially developed, those with a latex allergy need to be careful about latex products.

latex and allergies

latex process

latex process

However, 100% Natural Latex foam as we know it today, by its inherent nature, reduces or avoids the most common allergens associated with modern bedding materials without chemical additives or synthetics. Due to thorough washing in final stages of production, 100% natural latex also reduces the tendency for aggravation of latex allergies by significantly removing the plant proteins. Blended latex manufacturers tend to also make this claim on the basis of the natural latex component in their finished products.

A word of caution, however: People with acute or life-threatening allergies should always practice caution and seek the advice of their doctor or health professional.

The Latex Bedding Revolution

One of the ever-popular areas of use for latex is in mattresses and toppers. To get a sense of this, just imagine emergent western cultures accustomed to decades of horsehair and other unforgiving sleep surfaces suddenly discovering a soft yet firm rubbery surface that could be slept on, something that was waterproof and warm, and at the same time yielding, smooth, and elastic. Latex bedding proved to be a revolution.

Latex as a bedding material has evolved over time as the availability of the material, and technological advancements, have produced ever-better varieties. Additionally, latex mattresses and toppers have been relatively expensive until recent times. It has perhaps been the rise in prices of comparable synthetic foam and bedding products that has reduced the gap to the point where latex bedding tends to be only slightly more expensive; and that may, in part, be due to the fact that they aren’t yet mass-manufactured in the kind of volume that would otherwise make the prices equivalent.

In our time, natural latex is certainly considered very much of a luxury sleep surface in many circles. However, natural latex is also very popular among the eco-conscious; as well as those who cannot tolerate the chemical smells of synthetic foams, or who require the uniquely resilient feel or firmness of latex for health reasons. Whatever the case, as mentioned above, not all latex mattresses labeled as "talalay latex" or "latex mattress" are truly 100% natural latex. They can be  a synthetic combination.

To be perfectly clear, there will be synthetic latexes ("domestic latex"), there will be 100% natural latexes, there will be blended latexes (sometimes called "Talalay" or even "natural" without the "100%"), and there will be layered mattresses that may incorporate one or more of these types of latex rubber. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages; its special qualities and feel – and, in the end, such beds, toppers, and pillows were developed with people like you and me in mind.

The Differences Between Latex Foams and Memory Foam

Both synthetic and natural latex products, generally being more dense in consistency, are most often perforated like a pegboard in order to soften, lighten, and create enhanced airflow within the finished product – even though the foam itself is foamed and aerated during production. Memory Foam, a special kind of polyurethane foam, on the other hand, does not require perforation, and performs admirably without. Developed originally by NASA Laboratories, memory foam’s uniqueness lies in its ability to recover more slowly from body impressions (i.e., the sense of "remembering" body position) as well as responding to body weight and heat to provide greater comfort and more even weight and temperature distribution.

latex pillow memory foam
Perforated Latex Pillow "Memory" Foam

Latex is known for it’s properties of orthopedic support. It is soft but also firm. In addition it comes in an all natural variety. Memory foam on the other hand is all synthetic (though a natural version is being developed). It is basically very softening.

Latex Pillows Guide

We’re all health and comfort conscious to some degree, and a more comfortable pillow – or even one that helps reduce neck and head ache – is sought after nearly as much as the Elixir of Life! So many designs and formulations have been created that it would be hard to tabulate them all. Foam pillows might broadly be categorized as: 100% Natural Latex, 100% Synthetic Latex, 100% Memory Foam, and layered and blended combinations.

With ever-increasing awareness on health and the physical dynamics of body alignment, through health sciences such as Osteopathy and Chiropractic, reduction of pressure points, proper distribution of body weight on a sleep surface, and correct spinal alignment, have greatly influenced the bedding industry. In terms of pillows, the cervical or contour pillow was developed to help provide proper anatomic support for the head and neck.

See our fine Latex Foam Pillows.

latex pillow
Comparative Cross-Section View of Traditional vs Contoured Pillows

Latex Mattress Pad Toppers Guide

latex topperLatex toppers or mattress pads tend to be very supportive and have a springy resilience. For this reason, even a soft density latex topper can feel firm to some sleepers. Latex is particularly good for general support, support underneath a memory foam topper, and for body weights over about 250 lbs. Because of the durability and performance of latex, it makes an excellent sleep surface.

It’s surprising what a few inches of latex can do for a bed that isn’t otherwise comfortable. The soft and springy resilience of latex provides soothing orthopedic support, and helps to distribute body weight and reduce pressure points. On top of that, perforations in the foam itself help to increase air circulation and provide thermal distribution for better night time comfort. Best of all, modern production technology involves washing the finished (natural latex) product to help reduce or eliminate the plant proteins that may cause or aggravate allergy.

With synthetic latexes or blends, every day may bring an ever greater range of density and feel, allowing the really discriminating sleeper to choose what suits them in a very meticulously precise way. Particularly with blends, the topper may possess unique properties that provide an unmatched sleep experience – for just the right person.

See our many fine Latex Mattress Pad Toppers

Latex Mattress Guide

Latex mattresses probably come in as many varieties as Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, in part because they have been presented as a luxury item, and in part because each of us has his or her own definition of what "comfortable" is. Some mattress manufacturers are even beginning to allow independent customization of the mattress.

latex mattressContemporary choices include a range of mattresses from handsome tight-tops to luxurious pillow-top styles; 100% natural latex mattresses, 100% synthetic mattresses, and sometimes combinations of natural and synthetic latexes – each with added comfort layers of wool, cashmere, SuperSoft foam, or polyester fiber, and different thicknesses, sizes, and shapes of the basic mattress or bed set. Each will be covered in a handsome or even elegant fabric made of natural, synthetic, or blended fibers.

When it comes to the general term, "latex mattress" it is best to be aware of the fact that many stores will only tell you that their mattress is "Natural Latex", "Talalay latex", "Dunlop latex", or merely "Natural" or "Latex" – as if such a label will hypnotize you into accepting that their mattress is exactly what you were looking for without ever telling you the full story. This would probably only be a concern if you require a truly 100% natural latex mattress or have a particular allergy or sensitivity.

The 100% natural latex mattress will generally be between 6" and 14" deep, and may be anything from pure natural latex with an organic removable cover all the way to density-layered pure natural latex wrapped in organic wool, with a cozy pillowtop, and adorned with elegant woven fabric. Such luxurious covers are often quilted for added comfort, and to help keep delicate layers from shifting.

latex bedThe most common densities for latex are soft (4.7 lbs density, 16 – 18 IFD) and medium (5.3 lbs density, 28 – 30 IFD), though some manufacturers may utilize higher densities for the core of their mattresses. If variable comfort and support is important, multiple layers of different densities might be the way to go, as it provides the best of both worlds.

In the realm of combination, blended, or "domestic" latex mattresses, the mattress will often begin with a core of high density polyurethane foam for inexpensive but effective support and durability. On top of this will be various layers including 100% natural latex, 100% synthetic latex, a blended natural-and-synthetic latex, and/or memory foam. Luxurious versions will frequently also include pillow tops which may incorporate latex, wool, cashmere, SuperSoft foam, and/or some delicate soft polyester fiber to add a more plush appearance and feel. The very top level latex mattresses will also use latex as the base or support foundation level of foam

See our Latex Mattress Collection.

The Latex Sleeping Experience

latex sleepSpecialty sleep products are their own unique experience – for each product, people tend to either like the feel or they don’t.

Generally, however, the less chemically noxious the product is, the more happy customers you’re likely to see after the sale closes. In the case of 100% natural latex mattresses, the primary issue that tends to come up is comfort – from people who aren’t used to the springy resilience of latex foam and didn’t really know what to expect. Nevertheless, most modern latex mattresses now include comfort layers of wool, fiber, and softer foams to add an extra plushness which helps make that very supportive latex feel ever so luxurious. So it is possible to find a latex mattress that is just the right amount of softness for your own personal comfort level. We find our customers love latex bedding.

Customer Experience: "I’m as snug as a bug-in-a-rug on my own D-I-Y (Do-It-Yourself) ErgoSoft Select 100% natural latex mattress that is 8" of medium soft density latex foam with a very ordinary zippered mattress enclosure. Not only do I like its simplicity, but I also find it to be the most comfortable mattress I’ve ever slept on. What could add to that? – it is also the most economical version of a 100% natural mattress available."